The age of the e-book

For about a decade, people from all corners of the globe have been saying “We are now entering the age of the e-book”.

Whenever I heard someone say that, I couldn’t shake off the analogy of the real estate agent saying “Now is a great time to buy”.

It just sounded empty.

Something in my gut told me that it simply wasn’t true. And you know what? Year after year, e-books never took off, despite all the exciting forecasts and fanfare.

However… is the tide finally turning?

A Kindle e-reader

The new players

A myriad of reasons have held e-books back from mass popularity over the years.

The most obvious one is that lots of people (and I’m one of them) prefer reading real paper books. You can pack them easily, you can read them on the beach, you can scribble notes in them, you can knock them around, you can lend them to your friends, they don’t need recharging, and you never get radiation-induced eye strain.

But another big reason has been the lack of suitable reading devices. Sure, you can read e-books on your laptop or on your smartphone, but it’s not a lot of fun.

Enter the Kindle and the iPad. The former is a purpose-built e-book reader, and I would argue that the latter is too.

OK, so a couple of cool e-book reading devices are finally on the market. Does that in itself foretell a revolution in e-book readership?

No it doesn’t, but this does:

Amazon and Apple have sold millions of Kindles and iPads.

Not hundreds of thousands. Millions.

With so many people owning an e-book reading device, it’s only natural that they would want to read e-books.

And when they do, they might realise that although they still prefer paper books, e-books are actually quite handy.

3 thoughts on “The age of the e-book

  1. I love the idea of eBooks, and am so glued to my iPhone that I think I’d cry if someone took it away for a day (can’t wait to get an iPad either). But the eBook thing has never really taken off for me. Partly because I have some issues with eyestrain, but I suspect it’s more to do with my habits. I read paper books to get away from everything, and because everything else in my life is so happily electronic, there’s almost a guilty pleasure about settling with something so different from the rest of my life. I may read eBooks in the future, but mostly for the convenience and compact advantages you’ve mentioned.

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about eBooks lately, especially as I’ve been traveling frequently and see more and more people reading digitally in the airports. I really like this New Yorker Cartoon:

    Although I mostly oppose this ebook revolution, I still wonder just how long it will take for this market to explode like the MP3 player market did following the iPod.

    I’ve just written some similar copy,, if you’re interested.

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